Here comes the first feature from our latest stay in Paris. This time the weather has been cold and unsteady and we have been focusing more on home features rather than the streets. But a model is seldom really at home in Paris, so call it an exploration on personal space in shared apartments and crowded hotels. We would like to thank all models who have opened their doors to us and we can’t wait to show you more. But let’s take one step at a time. This week we are introducing Smith Vanders, music lover, backpack traveller and impro fan, with whom we shared some thoughts on life, pets, places, discoveries, sounds and random bits of philosophy. Enjoy!
Thanks for having us over, Smith! You have been living in Paris for quite some time now, in about 10 different apartments spread all around the city. How does it feel to live in a city for a longer period of time without a crib to call your own?
Well, it’s annoying sometimes not to have all my stuff around and my instruments. Though just having the content of my suitcase to spread around probably does prevent me from making too much of a mess. The moving around through Paris however I don’t mind, I’ve always quite enjoyed discovering new areas, since every part of Paris seems to breath its entirely own atmosphere. Whenever I moved to a new area, I would always go on long walks through the neighborhood for the first week, just to discover the hidden places and figure out where the street markets are.
Do you have a favorite arrondissement by now?
I couldn’t say whether I have a favorite, since every area has such a different feel I find it very hard to compare them. In the twentieth arrondissement there are a lot of markets nearby to stroll by the stalls, in the sixth you have Le Jardin du Luxembourg which is perfect for a sunny afternoon with a guitar and a bottle of wine with friends, the second is a brewing place / kettle of mixed cultures, with everything to offer you can imagine and on top of that super central. The third/fourth is great for all its little shops, galleries and cafés. I think that’s where I found the most hidden walkways with their small restaurants and even an umbrella shop. As a tip I would recommend Butte aux Cailles, a typical example of how Paris slowly expanded over the surrounding small towns. It’s this cute village in the middle of concrete buildings in the thirteenth arrondissement, with small streets and lots of traditional restaurants. And even if you know where it is, it’s still hard to find the entrance to this small hamlet between all the concrete walls. But if you do, you’ll forget for a while that you’re actually in a big polluted city.
You have been growing up in the Dutch countryside, surrounded by a lot of chickens. At the moment you are sharing your place with two cats and a turtle. Do you actually enjoy having animals around? Which one has made for the most chilled homie ever?
Haha, the turtle for one isn’t really homie since half of the time it’s underneath a chair or something. It’s quite funny how when I got to this question my Spotify playlist switched to the song ‘Turtle walk’ by the Saint Andrew Jazzband. Although a turtle might not be my first choice of pet, it is entertaining to watch the staring competitions between one of the cats and the turtle sometimes. To come back to the question, I do enjoy having animals around. At my parents place we used to have a dog (named Rataplan, after Lucky Luke’s dog) and some cats (unfortunately the cats all managed to get hit by a car within a year). After that came the chickens who, after three years or so, all miraculously disappeared. So far it’s still a mystery what happened to them. Chickens however are a lot of fun to have around. Nonetheless, my favorite was the dog, it’s an animal that really becomes a friend, and what is more fun to live with than a good friend? Also a dog makes you move, having to walk it no matter the weather.
You first left home to become a student of musicology in Amsterdam. What is music to you? And why would you have rather become a musicologist than a musician?
As Plato said: ‘Music is a moral law, it gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and everything.’ I agree with him on that. Music is such a big part of culture, society and communication. Wherever you go in the world people always make music and use it as a way to express emotions. It’s a language that is spoken all over the world, in the biggest city and the smallest desert-based tribe. As to why I preferred musicology over the conservatory has two main reasons. The first one is simply that my violin skills wouldn’t have gotten me into the conservatory whereas I only needed a diploma for university. The second is that I’ve not only been interested in making music, but also in the psychological side of it, what it does to people.
Is there a unique sound to every place? And what is the kind of music you can really lose yourself into?
Absolutely, if not for the place itself, then for the memories made in that specific place. Often when I put my iPod on shuffle numbers, with every new song new memories of a time and place come up in my mind. With the area Saint-Germain des Près in the fifth arrondissement for example I always have a jazzy, dixieland-like sound in my head. Probably because there are often musicians in that area playing that kind of music on the street. But also the sea has it’s own sound. It would be interesting to contemplate whether it’s the times and places suiting certain music, or rather music creating dreams of certain places…
After Amsterdam came Paris and now New York City is in sight, what are you most looking forward to when big city life grows even bigger?
I think just feeling the energy that flows in a city like New York. The option of doing anything whenever you want to. And I can’t wait to visit the jazz clubs, meet the people that dwell in there and walk around finding the hidden places.
And in case times and places may get too busy, have you been making plans for the big escape? Where would you be heading to?
I think that if I’d want to escape from everything I would take my backpack and go traveling, Scandinavia, Iceland, Canada, Mongolia, wherever it’s not too warm and where there’s beautiful nature to discover and interesting people to meet.
The name Smith brought the Latin quote “ homo faber suae quisque fortunae” to our minds, which translates somehow like every man is the maker (literally: smith) of its own destiny. Far fetch, we know… but can you actually identify here a bit? Or do you have a different, better quote you live by?
Well, for a part yes, but I’m not convinced you can determine your own destiny completely. I think you can do a lot if you want to and are willing to work for it. But I think that’s easier to say growing up in a modern developed environment, given all the means to do what I want. And since the quote was used by a Roman politician from a wealthy patrician family (Appius Claudius Caecus), I’m guessing that was rather easy for him to say as well. Therefore I’m more inclined to turn once again to a musical quote, namely one of George Gershwin: ‘Life’s a lot like jazz, it’s best when you improvise.’ I think you can accomplish most when you can see the changes that appear to you and take them to get where you want, or even take a completely different path.
And at last… if you could have one super power, which would pick? And why?
Stopping time, how great would it be if some moments never had to pass.